Authentication and Evaluation
Is the art an original (one-of-a-kind)
painting or print or is it a reproduction? 
Here are tips on finding out if your art is a one-of-a-kind
original by some artist.
- make a visual inspection
- -- An original watercolor will have a rough surface when
looked at from an angle; a reproduction will have a flat and even surface.
- -- An original oil painting on canvas mounted on stretcher
bars will have a rough and uneven paint edge on the sides of the canvas
where the viewer usually does not look. If a side is even it's probably
- -- lithographs and other multiples hand-made by the artist
(considered originals) usually have an artist's signature and the number
of the work out of the series, e.g. 5/15, meaning the fifth work of a series
of fifteen in total. The signature and numbers are hand-written by the
- -- A reproduction may be mounted on cardboard or another
kind of board. Borrow a high power magnifying glass (the kind jewelers
use) or a microscope and look at a color picture in a magazine. If the
magnification is powerful enough, you will see microscopic colored dots
in a pattern. Next, use this same magnifying glass or microscope and focus
on the image you are studying. If you see the same type of array of dots
in your picture you have a machine-made reproduction.
- -- Some reproductions are very well done and may have
no dots to see. They can be on canvas or paper on board and even be embossed
to duplicate the brush marks of an original painting. A Giclee (ghee-clay)
print is a machine-made reproduction of very high quality made by an Iris
digital ink jet printer. A Giclee print has extremely small pixels of color,
with no perceptible dot pattern, that may equate to resolution of a digital
print at 1,800 dots per inch. A Giclee print may be hand signed and may
have dabs of paint applied by the artist to enable the print to be sold
as an original work of art.
- -- machine-made reproductions usually do not have hand-made
- -- machine-made reproductions often have stock identification
numbers on the back of the art work.
- -- a copyright symbol followed by a date and name of
creator is not a sure sign of either a reproduction or an original. Some
artists place a copyright symbol and date near their signature on original
works. Paintings which are believed to have been created prior to common
use of the copyright notice and symbol should be absent the copyright notice.
to About Inc. "Copyright notice was required under the 1976 Copyright
Act. This requirement was eliminated when the United States adhered to
the Berne Convention, effective March 1, 1989." If a reproduction
was made years after the original work was created the copyright symbol
and date relate to the reproduction work.
- Ask a professional artist in your town to take a look at your painting. Artists often know
originals from reproductions.
- Take the painting or print to an owner-operated
framing shop in your town. Find an owner who is well-respected and who
has owned the frame shop for several years. Ask the owner if the work is
an original or a reproduction of some type. You can also take the object
to a certified art appraiser, auction house or a print curator in a museum.
- Look for the artist in Google
Image Search to study the artistic style of the artist and to identify
web sites covering the artist. The results can be quite comprehensive.
For instance a October 2004 search for images concerning Georgia O'Keeffe
yielded 4,750 images. If you see an image of your painting you probably
have a reproduction.
Dr. Mark Sublette, owner of Medicine Man Gallery in Tucson
and Santa Fe, has created a channel
of YouTube online videos on topics relating to paintings and Native American
baskets, weavings, pottery and carvings. Titles regarding authentication
to tell if a painting is old or a reproduction and How
to identify fake artwork before you buy it.
Return to Authentication
and Evaluation of Paintings
1. See our section on Prints and Reproductions
While Traditional Fine Art Organization, Inc (TFAO) does
not provide authentication services, the information in this report is provided
as a public service and may be of help to readers studying approaches to
authentication and evaluation of their works of art.
Links to sources of information outside of our website
are provided only as referrals for your further consideration. Please use
due diligence in judging the quality of information contained in these and
all other websites. Information from linked sources may be inaccurate or
out of date. TFAO neither recommends or endorses these referenced organizations.
Although TFAO includes links to other web sites, it takes no responsibility
for the content or information contained on those other sites, nor exerts
any editorial or other control over them. For more information on evaluating
online information see TFAO's General Resources
section in Online Resources for Collectors and Students of Art History.
Copyright 2009 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights